Your First Focus: A Few Seconds to More Success

12 Time Frames to Consciously Focus on Your Results for Yourself and for Others

Posted Mar 09, 2018

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Your First Focus: A Few Seconds to More Success

There are 1440 moments in a day, how many of yours are excellent? We all operate on autopilot up to 95% of the time. Are your co-workers and family getting the best you?

This article will explore how we think and how we can think more and better. Then at what strategic time frames a few seconds of focus and what to focus on can increase your effectiveness.

Our brains are prediction machines to maximize our energy. Lisa Feldman Barrett (2018) in How Emotions are Made, writes “Through prediction and correction your brain continually creates and revises your mental model of the world.”

So without rigorous focus on where you are aiming, most of us rely on others to makes sense and interpret what we mean. The result, we will most likely be misinterpreted and misunderstood. So as a leader, you are leaving it up to chance to have your messages and focus be in alignment with others.                                                    

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Robert Cialdini (2016) in Pre-Suasion: “What is more accessible in the mind becomes more probable in action.”

Our deliberate and rigorous first focus then directs our outcomes for ourselves and those we lead.

What you focus on grows, what you focus on guides. So how you start is how you succeed. With just a few seconds or minutes of thinking ahead and preparing you can move from good leadership to great leadership.

Your First Focus are the seeds that will flourish, take time and consideration to select which are the best seeds for the occasion to nurture.

The problem is we don’t like to think!

Most of us operate on autopilot all day long. These predictions allow us to conserve energy, but open us up to misperceptions, assumptions, mistakes and poor decisions.

Now more than ever we have "outsourced our thinking". With smart phones, smart cars, Alexa, Siri and Google in our houses, truly thinking is becoming an underused resource. The up and coming smart cars are supposed to be ten times safer than a human who day dreams, fiddles with radio, looks at their phone and often is eating at the same time. Business Insider reports there will be 10 million self-driving cars on the road in the next few years and over $507 billion gained through increased productivity. If with proper focus, some of this productivity can come from increased reflection and slower thinking.

As an Executive Coach, I challenge my clients to have their direct reports really think versus the leader doing all the heavy lifting. As consequence the leader becomes a Siri, the short cut any time there is a question from a direct report.

The consequence of autopilot thinking is prediction errors.

Martin Luther King, Jr. has said: "Nothing pains some people more than having to think." 

Daniel Kahneman, (2016) in Thinking, Fast and Slow, writes:

“Judgments and decisions are guided directly by feelings of liking and disliking, with little deliberation or reasoning.”

Chip and Dan Heath’s in their book, Decisive, they write:

“Why do we have such a hard time making good choices? …When it comes to making decisions, it is clear that our brains are flawed instruments.”

So the key is more "slow thinking" than "fast thinking" to use Kahneman's terms. We are already excellent at fast thinking but slow thinking is becoming the underutilized muscle and may atrophy with limited use.

We need to “insource our thinking.”

What this means is you need to truly think and reflect on what you want in the moment and assess what others want in the moment.

It is about your clarity of your input for yourself and others to get excellent output for your decisions, judgements and communication.

Our Emotional Intelligence formula for top performance is:

Empathy X Insight X Clarity = Top 10% Performance or

E x I x C = Top 10% Performance

The moments of thinking of your intent adds the clarity for your best performance.

Thinking Signposts

Below are signposts to stop and reflect on what you want to be aware of, mindful of and how to be excellent in the next five minutes. Brendon Burchard (2018) calls these transitions in his High Performance Habits.

“The focus of your attention in critical moments of choice can build your capacity to be an effective leader.” (Schwartz, Thomson and Kleiner, 2017)

What is the First Focus on Yourself (FFOY) and what is the First Focus on Others (FFOO).                                                         

The results can be more rewarding for you and all the people you interact with and it will take only moments of focus and attention.

Included here are series of 12 critical moments that can set you up for optimum performance. Decide what thoughts and actions can fill these moments for you and others.

What can be a reminder for you to maximize these moments, like the locking of your car beep or walking down the hall to your next meeting. These "triggers" can be like the boxers bell for starting your next round of First Focus.

What can you consciously prime to be excellent in the next 5 minutes?

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1.When you wake up- First Focus, First Thoughts, First Actions

Gratitude focus as you wake - 3 things
Top Goals for yourself for the day.
What do want to bring to your family for first focus?
What attitude do you want to bring?

2. On the way to work: Breathe in count of 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds, out for count of 4 seconds. Do it a few times, it helps relax you by connecting the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous sytems.

What will be your first focus?
What do want to bring to your team for their first focus?

What are you most excited about?
What attitude do you want to bring?

3. Walking in the door: Breathe in count of 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds, out for count of 4 seconds. It is your Entrance Intention.

What will be your first focus?
What do want to bring to your team for your first focus?
What attitude do you want to bring?

4. Morning meetings: Your Entrance Intention

What will be your first focus?
What is purpose of the meeting?
What do want to bring to your team for your first focus?
What attitude do you want to bring?

5. Times of Confusion, Overwhelm, frustration – Use the Emotional Audit – 5 Questions

1) What am I thinking? 2) What am I feeling? 3) What do I want now? 4) How am I getting in my your own way? 5) What do I need to do differently now?

6. Lunch: Take time to Recharge, Savor, and Mindfulness

7. Individual person focus: Be the Puppy

Be excited to see them and show them, light up like your puppy would when it sees you.
Be present, listen first.
What attitude do you want to bring?
What progress can you acknowledge
Have them leave feeling more capable?

8. Conflict – use a soft start versus "harsh start up."

“96% of the time you can predict the outcome of a conversation based on the first three minutes of a fifteen minute interaction.”  Dr. John Gottman

A harsh start-up elicits cortisol as it feels like criticism. It is a chemical reaction that goes south quickly between people.
How can you start gently?
What do want versus what you don’t want?
Manage your tone and words

9. Afternoon meetings: Entrance intention

What will be your first focus?
What is purpose of the meeting?
What do want to bring to your team for first focus?
What attitude do you want to bring?

10. Drive home

What went well at work?
What will be your first focus?
What do want to bring to your family for first focus?
What attitude do you want to bring?

11. Walking in the door at home: Entrance Intention

Deep breaths and What will be your first focus?
What do want to bring to your family for first focus?
What attitude do you want to bring?

12. Before bed time: Focus on what you are grateful for, your successes and learnings for the day.

What were yout top successes, what do you feel most proud about, what is yoour focus for tomorrow?

Try these First Focus strategies to help you be more present and successful in your interactions, decisions and communications.


Gottman J. and Silver, N (1999) 7 Principles that Make Marriage Work, New York: Random House

Heath, Chip and Dan (2013) Decisive. New York: Crown Publishing Group

Luckner, J. and Nadler, R. (1997) Processing the Experience, Dubuque Iowa: Kendall/Hunt Publishing

Nadler, R. S. (2011) Leadership Keys FREE iPhone App, Santa Barbara: Psyccess Press

Nadler, R.S. (2011-13) Leading with Emotional Intelligence Blog, Psychology Today blog

Nadler, R. S. (2011) Leading with Emotional Intelligence: Hands-On Strategies for Building Confident and Collaborative Star PerformersNew York: McGraw-Hill

Schwartz, J. Thomson, J. and Kleiner, A. (2017) The Neuroscience of Strategic Leadership, Strategy and Business, Summer 2017 / Issue 87